With its soft consistency and mild taste, ricotta cheese is a perfect addition in both sweet and savory dishes. It is used in desserts such as cheesecake, tarts, and muffins, melted beautifully into pasta dishes, spread on bagels, added to salads and incorporated into platters, fruit plates, and dips.
Whether you have bought or freshly made your own ricotta cheese, it would be sad to see this versatile and deliciously creamy ingredient go to waste just because you cannot use it all before its expiry date.
Here you will find out how to go about freezing ricotta to extend its shelf life for later use.
Types of Ricotta Cheese
Ricotta cheese is an unripened fresh cheese that takes its form initially as whey, a by-product of mozzarella and provolone cheese production. The foamy, liquid whey is gathered, re-cooked and drained to form a creamy curd known as ricotta cheese.
Although similar to cottage cheese, ricotta is smoother, has a firmer structure, is delicate in consistency, and is composed of moist, fine granules. There are different types of ricotta with varying fat content depending on the type of milk used. The most common types of ricotta cheese are:
#1. Cow Milk Ricotta
Also known as ricotta di mucca, this ricotta is the most common type in general grocery stores and can be found in full cream and lower-fat varieties.
#2. Sheep Milk Ricotta
Made with sheep’s milk, it is also known as ricotta di pecora.
#3. Cow and Sheep Milk Blend
Made from a blend of both cow and sheep milk, its Italian name is ‘ricotta mista di mucca e pecora.’
Can I Freeze Ricotta Cheese?
Freezing ricotta cheese is a great way to preserve it for later use, and although the taste does not change, you do need to be aware that the texture will not be the same smooth and creamy consistency once defrosted.
The soft and smooth texture of ricotta cheese is largely due to its high moisture content. This, unfortunately, is also the reason that it changes on freezing. The moisture turns into ice crystals as it freezes, and on thawing, this damages the natural structure of the cheese.
As the whey and curds separate, the cheese will become drier in texture and slightly crumbly.
It is however not all bad news. The texture can be improved and will also be unnoticeable when you use the defrosted ricotta in cooked dishes. Lasagna, gnocchi, ricotta pie, and calzones are just a few of the many dishes where you can incorporate thawed ricotta for a fabulous meal.
Another way to preserve ricotta is by first cooking the dish including the ricotta, and then freezing it. Tortellini, cannelloni, stews, and lasagne are a few dishes you can do this with.
Making sure you follow special precautions to minimize the formation of ice crystals is very important to preserving your ricotta cheese well in the freezer. Here is a simple guide on exactly how to go about freezing ricotta for the best result.
How to Freeze Ricotta Cheese
Step 1: Stir
Drain off any whey in your ricotta container and give the cheese a good stir to spread the remaining moisture evenly.
Step 2: Dry
Once stirred, press the ricotta lightly with kitchen towels to absorb moisture, preventing the formation of unnecessary ice crystals during freezing.
Step 3: Portion
Divide the ricotta into portion sizes that will be suitable for defrosting in the quantities you will need for cooking.
Step 4: Cling Wrap
Wrap each portion in a double layer of cling film, ensuring that no gaps are left open where air can enter and cause freezer burn.
Step 5: Pack
Place the wrapped portions into an airtight container or a zip lock freezer bag. Press all the air out of the bag before sealing it tightly.
Step 6: Label
Label the bag or container with the date in order to know how long the cheese has been in the freezer.
Step 7: Freezer Temperature
The temperature of your freezer needs to be consistently at or below 0˚F, so ensure that your freezer is cold enough as products will spoil if it is not.
How To Thaw Frozen Ricotta Cheese
Thawing your ricotta cheese takes some care. Due to its susceptibility to bacterial growth, one cannot leave it to thaw at room temperature. Here are the steps to thawing ricotta cheese for the best outcome.
Step 1: Refrigerate
Place the ricotta directly into the fridge to start softening.
Step 2: Stir
Once the cheese starts to soften, use a spoon to stir it occasionally in order to reconstitute some of the whey and curd structure.
Step 3: Mix Thoroughly
Once completely defrosted, you can mix it with an electric mixer to try and reconstitute its creamy texture. Discard some of the excess liquid if there is too much.
Keep the defrosted ricotta in the refrigerator until you use it for cooking, ensuring you use it within 2 days.
Although ricotta will never have the same smooth and creamy consistency after freezing than it did before, it can still be used successfully and deliciously in many cooked dishes.
If you take care during the preparation of your ricotta cheese when freezing and thawing it, you can still use this versatile product a couple of months down the line without letting any of it go to waste.
Thaw and mix the frozen ricotta before adding it to dishes to ensure a better consistency, and never leave it at room temperature as to avoid the growth of harmful bacteria. Once you take a bite of your cheesy pasta creation you will be glad you saved it from going to waste.
Up Next: How To Freeze Cottage Cheese
*Image by depositphotos/porosolka_balt